The number of Scots on prepayment meters being forced to go without food, heat and medicine has skyrocketed, a report has highlighted.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) revealed their Extra Help Unit experienced a 600% increase in cases of households losing supply because they are unable to top up their meter in April 2022 compared to April 2021.

Between April 2022 and August 2022, the unit supported almost 6000 self-disconnection cases - 50% more than were seen the whole of the 2021/22 financial year. 

The report also showcases a link between disabled people and prepayment meters, often forcing them to make impossible decisions. 

One case highlighted by CAS described that a client who went three days without power and had to destroy insulin needed to treat their diabetes. 

In another case, a mother with significant health issues was struggling to keep up with her debt on her prepayment meter and was paying £80 per week to keep the supply on.

The mother, who has significant mobility issues as well as emphysema, arthritis and brittle bone disease, was prioritising feeding her children over herself. 

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Half of the clients seeking advice on disconnection from prepayment meters also sought disability benefits advice. 

CAS Social Justice Policy Manager Stephanie Millar warned that the meters could exacerbate vulnerabilities. 

“With a prepayment meter, once it runs out of credit, that’s it," she said.

"You have no more heating until you top it up again. Too often we see people who have run out of credit and are unable to top it up, so they just have no heating or light or TV or digital devices.

“The contents of the fridge freezer go off, and the family can’t use their washing machine. Disabled people who use stair lifts or mobility scooters are unable to charge these."

The organisation is urging the UK and Scottish Governments to ensure that future funding is targeted at those most vulnerable to sky-rocketing energy prices. 

The report also recommends that supplies review their vulnerability criteria. 

It comes as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that households with the meters have been nearly twice as likely to dip into debt due to the cost of living crisis.

The ONS revealed that 26% of adults who pay for their gas or electricity up front, reported using credit because of increases to the cost of living. Among the rest of the population that figure was 14%.

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Ms Millar added: “Many of the cases we considered for this report show people making difficult decisions about how to allocate their income, which includes people who are reducing essential spending, such as food or rent, to top up their meter.

“Prepayment meters tend to be used by the most vulnerable people in society, such as those who struggle financially or people who are disabled, this report shows a link between consumers needing advice with disconnection issues from their meters and with disability benefits.

“In many cases these meters have created or exacerbated consumer vulnerability.

“We have seen in recent weeks the scandal of forced entry to install prepayment meters, and some of the problems outlined in this report show why no one should be forced onto a prepayment meter. It is also very worrying to see that people are being denied help on the grounds they have needed help in the past.

“The problems we’ve uncovered in this report are unacceptable. We need governments, energy suppliers, Ofgem and charities to all work together urgently to target help to this particularly vulnerable group of consumers.”